My name is Brandon Gabriel, and I am an artist from the Kwantlen First Nation who resides in Fort Langley.
I am writing this letter to pay tribute to a wonderful lady who passed away recently – Mrs. Diane Pona, a former school trustee and advocate for First Nations education and children with special needs.
I was commissioned by her daughter Candy Pona-Ashdown and her husband Lyle Pona to create artwork for a red cedar bentwood box that would be used for her cremation. I was honoured to accept the commission on behalf of my family and community who she worked so tirelessly for in her years during and after her time as a school trustee.
She loved hummingbirds and the colour blue, so I designed the box with those elements in mind.
In Coast Salish culture, we have a story from our creation about a great forest fire that drove all living things big and small from the forest and sought refuge elsewhere.
While all the other creatures and humans were moving away from the billowing inferno, a small hummingbird with a droplet of water in its beak was flying towards the fire. It would take more droplets of water back and forth into the flames over and over again.
When asked by all the other creatures and humans why the hummingbird would do such a futile thing, the hummingbird replied “I am putting the fire out one droplet of water at a time.”
This is a fitting tribute for Diane. Doing her part for the benefit of all, knowing the great challenges that lay ahead of her and doing it anyway.
May she rest in peace, and her family find healing and love with one another.
With utmost respect,
Kwantlen First Nation